The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is one of the most intricate joints in your body. This joint acts like a sliding hinge that connects your jawbone to your skull, and if temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD) occurs, it can cause stiffness and pain. To treat TMJ disorder, professional treatment provided by your dentist may recommend using an oral appliance such as a TMJ splint.
A TMJ splint is known by many names such as a dental splint, bite guard, night guard, bite splint, oral splint, or occlusal splint. The splint is designed to minimize the pressure on your jaw joints and teeth and reposition the jaw for ideal alignment. It does this by supporting and stabilizing the joints and muscles to prevent malocclusion or an incorrect bite when they are closed.
To create a dental splint, the dentist will start by making an impression of your teeth, which they’ll use to form a custom-made acrylic splint. It is typically worn while you sleep at night on your upper or lower teeth like a mouth guard.
The best way to identify a TMJ disorder is by understanding what the symptoms feel like. Some of the most common TMD symptoms patients suffering from TMD are likely to experience the following symptoms:
The symptoms of TMD may look like other conditions or health problems. So it’s important to contact your local dentist who specializes in TMJ treatment to help you relieve your pain.
To effectively treat your TMJ disorder, it is important to find the right splint for your condition. There are two types of splints that your dentist can recommend – Permissive and non-permissive. Each type of TMJ splint therapy has distinct features for patients with unique needs.
Permissive splints – Also known as stabilization splints, are a common type of TMJ splint treatment for TMD. With permissive splints, we can fit them to both the upper and lower teeth, which limits grinding and clenching as well as helps align your jaw joints to the socket. When you close your jaw, your teeth will come in contact with your splint. During this process, your teeth will slide freely against the flat and smooth bite surface, eliminating any interference that could cause muscle inflammation.
A non-permissive splint – also known as repositioning splint or directive splint, repositions the jaw by limiting movement. This type of splint is used only for specific types of jaw disorders. Examples of non-permissive splints include anterior repositioning appliances (ARA) and mandibular orthotic repositioning oral appliances (MORA). Patients using this type of splint will typically wear this throughout the day.
At your appointment, your dentist will thoroughly inspect the jaw to see any signs of irritation or inflammation. To diagnose TMD, your dentist will examine the teeth for any signs of grinding or clenching, take a cone-beam computed tomography systems (CBCT) scan (think of a 3D panoramic x-ray), and look at how jaw muscles are moving to assess if there is a muscular imbalance or joint dysfunction.
An easy way to see if you have TMD is to check whether your jaw is shifting as you open and close your mouth or if you have an uneven bite when your jaw is closed. We will also assess how it moves in all directions and discuss your symptoms with you to see which TMJ splint treatment is appropriate for your condition.
Depending on the severity of the TMD, dental appliances do work by gently moving your TMJ into its natural position, where the joint isn’t fully engaged. In fact, the use of splint therapy is the most common dental treatment for TMJD. However, there are some severe cases where TMJ splints are ineffective for TMJ treatment. For example, if you have severe tooth and jaw misalignment, resulting in atypical joint movements while biting or chewing your food. When that happens, your temporomandibular joint needs to overcompensate and move a lot more for each meal. The best treatment option for this situation is orthodontic treatment as part of your TMD therapy.
Wearing a TMJ splint can improve jaw alignment, reduce tension on the facial muscles and provide some relief from discomfort by cushioning your teeth. You may have to get used to wearing it at first but eventually you will experience these benefits:
The cost will vary depending on the treatment. However, forgoing TMJ treatment to save money will typically cost more in the long run if the conditions worsen. Treating your TMJ sooner than later is an affordable and effective option for those who want to try and treat their condition before they experience severe pain, irreversible damage, or surgery. Depending on your health insurance, a dental appliance may even be covered under health benefits as well!
At Sloan Creek Dental, Dr. Tina Feng is an experienced dentist in diagnosing and treating TMJ. Myofascial pain, TMJ disorder, or bruxism should not affect your lifestyle or your quality of life. To learn more about your TMJ treatment options, or learn more about TMD, schedule a dental appointment at our office, please contact our dental office at 972-468-1440, or leave us a message.